Doha 2016 Day 1, Set Points: Gasparyan rolls, Bouchard survives and lucky ten for Saisai

Hallelujah to a Sunday start… while a day off would have been nice, i’m not saying no to a day of being able to watch tennis without work getting the way! Here are the highlights from a pretty eventful day one. I’ve also included an awesome interview with Lucie and Rob in Doha. A feature post for Lucie’s first match will go up on Moo’s Tennis Blog tomorrow!

Set PointsKarolina Pliskova’s last three sets… 1-6, 1-6 and 1-6. In another concerning loss, she was completely outplayed by Margarita Gasparyan. While the Russian player had a super day, she encountered very little resistance from Pliskova. When she’s down, Pliskova has a tendency to just hit harder and harder with little thought about building the point. Her serve was very inconsistent, hitting just 44% of first serves in and 6 double faults including one down match point in a listless final game.

Eugenie Bouchard saved two match points to survive an entertaining first round tussle with Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7 6-3 7-6(4). When Sevastova went up a set and a break it looked like it might be over quickly but to her credit, Bouchard showed plenty of staying power. Even down 0-4 in the third set, commiting a torrent of unforced errors, she just about hung on. I really do like Sevastova’s game but she didn’t do a great job of frontrunning this match. To be fair, she got unlucky with a call on match point that would have seen her victorious; a baseline ball from Sevastova was called out, late, and AFTER Bouchard had hit her shot into the net. Sevastova successfully challenged but the umpire ordered to replay the point…

Saisai Zheng recorded her second win in a week over Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2 7-6(6), needing TEN match points to get over the finish line. Lepchenko’s performance was much like my TennisTV stream… intermittent and unstable. She frequently struggled to find the court, going wide so many times, particularly on the forehand side. The court favoured Zheng’s more defensive game although she did come up with a couple of sweet winners in extended rallies. A mixture of controlled hitting from Lepchenko and tightness from Zheng prolonged the match; the Chinese player twice failed to serve it out at *5-4 and *6-5 and then nearly let slip a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak. Lepchenko battled well from a losing position but was never able to keep it together when she was on level terms.

Daria Kasatkina continues to impress as she came through her first round match against Qiang Wang, 6-1 2-6 6-3. It was a very enjoyable match; after an error-strewn opener from Wang, she came back in style in the second set. The turning point in the second was Kasatkina failing to take advantage of a *0-40 opening down 2-4. Kasatkina came back in the third set, hitting a trio of wonderful passing shots and generally playing much more positive tennis. I’m falling in love with Kasatkina’s game… she’s so smart around the court. I can’t wait for when she becomes more confident in her game and manages to maintain a more aggressive gameplan on a consistent basis. Kasatkina plays Roberta Vinci or Lesia Tsurenko in the second round… definitely winnable.

Question… what is happening with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova this year? The Slovak player has won just two matches all year and went down in straight sets to Yulia Putintseva, 2-6 4-6. Her serve seems to have completely disintegrated; I don’t know what has happened since the end of 2015 but the second serve is such a liability and it seems to be feeding into the rest of her game. I actually went for AKS to reach the quarter-finals this week in Doha – we’ve seen a lot of players snap out of dire runs this year, take Errani just last week, and I thought she might do it with her draw. It proved to be a poor decision on my part. Schmiedlova’s issues seem to be quite deep right now and will require a serious amount of mental fortitude to turn it around… I hope she does because her game is great to watch when on song.

Andrea Petkovic continues to dominate her head-to-head with Ekaterina Makarova, winning her fourth consecutive match against the Russian player, strolling through, 6-3 6-2. I can’t quite understand this H2H but it seems that Petkovic has the answers to all the strengths in Makarova’s game. Furthermore, Makarova has really gone off the boil and hasn’t won a match since the Australian Open. Petkovic moves forward to a very intriguing second round match against Gasparyan… tough to pick out a winner in that one!

TennisTV had Gigi Salmon, Lucie Ahl and Guy McCrea on the commentary for Sunday and I believe for the rest of the week too. I like their enthusiasm and have always been a fan of Guy’s commentary. It’s definitely better than last year where we had Jason Goodall and Robbie Koenig for Doha… while they are great at the ATP, their lack of enthusiasm covering WTA was evident.

Lucie’s first match of the year will be against Cagla Buyukakcay in the second round. Here’s a fab video of Lucie and Rob…

Doha looks niceeee!

18 thoughts on “Doha 2016 Day 1, Set Points: Gasparyan rolls, Bouchard survives and lucky ten for Saisai

  1. Goodness me Pliskova serve was just AWOL looking at those stats,she has one of the best serves on the women’s tour,played good solid tennis for Czech at the Fed Cup in singles and doubles a few weeks ago,went out in the first rd in Dubai now Doha,I am at a loss to know what is going on with her game.

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    • Baffled by today’s loss, truly baffled! Gasparyan played great but Pliskova just had no ideas other than hit harder and harder. She showed very little patience and the last game was not pretty.

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      • My Czech friend told me Pliskova has injuries. The information posted on Czech tennis sites.

        Genie was indeed very lucky to win. Sevastova should have won this…ahhh!

        I mentioned many times before Lepchenko would lose to anyone if her next round opponent is a much stronger player. This theory applied to Bondarenko too. However, Bondarenko is on a case-by-case basis. In this case, she will play Aga in the next round. Whenever the H2H is not 2-0 or 3-0, she would fight to win.

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      • Ahh that’s interesting about Pliskova, would give some context to her recent performances but if she is injured then not sure I quite understand playing through them!

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  2. I do enjoy any decent combo of Gigi Salmon and Lucy or someone else. They really like the. Wta and importantly the behind the scenes issues and talk. I really enjoy roland garros when she covers it. Oddly the coverage for wimbledon tends to be boring sometimes.

    Yulia, as feisty as she is, can be a handful for most top 10 players, the least of Anna. As such, I won’t be too concerned with her performance. Last year, she played herself into the season. This year she will be on the radar of her opponents. A tough start is expected hopefully she gets into the swing of things soon.

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  3. I did read about Pliskova not being fully fit but didnot know she was carrying any serious injury. Anyway, she’s been a workhorse for both herself and the Czech Fed team. She needs to rest, and skip a few tournies.

    I’m still interested in seeing Vika’s progress through Acapulco so will follow that as well when I have sometime. Looking ahead, having a williams at Indian Wells is good.

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  4. Im so pleased you love Kasatkina’s game too James. I feel like she’s gone fairly under the radar because she’s come from such a strong batch of juniors that have made early jumps onto the wta circuit. But she has everything, really. And yet she seems more strong willed than a Garcia or Mladenovic.

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    • Yes I agree, it’s only recently I’ve been able to watch some of her matches in full. She’s so smart around the court and in building the points, and has the variety that the hard-hitting players lack. She’s got a decent mentality already. I think you can see she’s not quite comfortable in attacking all the time and her coach keeps having to reinforce the message. She’s said that clay is her favourite surface so excited to see what she can do there. I think she’s got a shot against Vinci tomorrow. Still very early days and so little experience on the tour but got a really positive feeling about her. Plus, she seems like a really nice person!

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      • She also seems to have more natural power than say Bencic or Svitolina. She clocked some pretty high speed serves in St Petersburg.

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  5. Good post James. For me, the lesson is just how hard it is to call women’s matches right now and how unpredictable they are. Elena Vesnina (no. 116) has just beaten Caroline Garcia (no. 33). And Svetka Kuznetsova has just beaten Julia Georges 6-3, 6-3; the same player she only managed to win a single game against in their previous encounter.

    Mixed feelings about Daria Kazatkina vs Roberta Vinci; Daria is already a very good player and seems personally delightful but it’s nice to see Robi have an Indian summer at what must be close to the end of her career.

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